The motion of the Mauritius Shop Owners Association (SOA) against the increase in trade fees was heard for the first time in the Supreme Court yesterday. The SOA president, Santosh Kumar Ramnauth, argued against the “unilateral decision to increase trade fees” with effect from 1 January 2014. It may be noted that the SOA comprises over 5000 traders.

These increases, argued the association, have been made ​​without it, or any related members, making any representation, in breach of the principle of natural justice.

Accordingly, the plaintiff stated that the increase in trade fees “is unreasonable, irrational and unfair, to the detriment of its members.”

Ramnauth noted that in the current economic climate, where the profit margins of the members of the SOA are declining, they also have other fees and charges added to their costs, including those of the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA).

Therefore, Ramnauth requested that the court grant a judicial review by local authorities on the increase trade fees.

Until the Supreme Court rules on the motion of judicial review, the SOA president has called for a stay of execution of these regulations.

In other words, he has requested that the decision to increase the trade fees is not applied, until such time as the Supreme Court has ruled for or against the same.

For its part, the AHRIM (Association des hôteliers et restaurateurs de l’île Maurice), which represents the interests of hoteliers and restaurateurs in Mauritius, said that the decision to hike the trade fees is “irrational”.

It argued in its complaint that two fundamental laws were violated by the defendants, including the “common law of duty of consultation” and “common law test of Proportionality.”

The AHRIM, represented by Eric Ribot as Senior Counsel, and Thierry Koenig as Senior Attorney, believes that the association and its members should have been consulted in order that they be granted the opportunity to give voice to their suggestions.

The association considers the decision to revise the trade fees upwards as “arbitrary and harsh.”

The association claimed that its members have already paid similar charges under the category of “Tourists Enterprises Licensing Fees” to the Tourism Authority. Hence, according to AHRIM, the introduction of these new fees is to the detriment of its members because the new category of trade fees amounts to “duplicity in payments” for members.

These costs were previously paid to regional authorities and the government took the decision to centralize such payments under the aegis of the Tourism Authority, which falls under the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure.

In addition, during consultations with the Ministry of Finance as part of the fiscal year, AHRIM claimed that at no time was there any question of increase in trade fees to local authorities.

Image: The Mauritius Supreme Court, where the motion of the The Mauritius Shop Owners Association was heard. The latter stated that the increase in trade fees “is unreasonable, irrational and unfair, to the detriment of its members.”

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